South Korea’s Gyeongnam FC were held to a 2-2 draw by Chinese side Shandong Luneng in their Asian competition debut on Tuesday.
Shandong’s Italian striker Graziano Pelle scored twice to deny Gyeongnam a win in their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League Group E opening match at Changwon Football Center in Changwon, some 400 kilometers south of Seoul.
Gyeongnam, founded in 2006, qualified for the AFC Champions League after they finished second in the K League 1, South Korea’s top division football league, last year.
Gyeongnam nearly conceded a goal to Shandong just 30 seconds after the kickoff. Shandong’s Graziano Pelle unleashed a right-footed strike that rang the crossbar, but he was called for a handball foul.
However, it didn’t take long for Pelle to hit the net.
The Italian headed down a Liu Binbin cross from the right flank and gave a 1-0 lead to the visitors.
Looking frustrated, Gyeongnam tried to get an equalizer but lacked precision around the box. In the first half, they failed to register a shot on target.
To boost their lackluster offense, Gyeongnam substituted in former Inter Milan and Sporting CP forward Luc Castaignos for Park Ki-dong.
After knocking on the door of Shandong, Gyeongnam finally earned their equalizer in the 60th. Shandong goalkeeper Wang Dalei denied a powerful left-footed strike by Gyeongnam’s Brazilian midfielder Negueba, but Woo Ju-sung pounced on a rebound to level the score.
Taking that momentum, Gyeongnam produced their second goal in the 68th when Kim Seung-jun found the net with his right foot following a pass from Castaignos.
Jordon Mutch, the former Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers midfielder, nearly gave Gyeongnam their third goal of the night, but his curling effort in the 75th rang the cross bar.
Pelle stepped up again for the Chinese Super League outfit in the 77th. The former Southampton striker found the net with his right foot after redirecting Jin Jingdao’s pass.
Pelle then nearly punished Gyeongnam again in the 81st, but his right-footed effort after Marouane Fellaini’s pass was too high.
The two teams had three minutes of extra time, but neither scored before the final whistle.
Gyeongnam will next face Johor Darul Ta’zim on the road next Tuesday. The Malaysian league winners fell 2-1 to defending ACL champions Kashima Antlers of Japan in their opening match.
Elsewhere, Daegu FC, another ACL debutant from the K League 1, beat Melbourne Victory 3-1 in their Group F opening match on the road.
Daegu, the reigning Korea Football Association Cup winners, beat Melbourne at AAMI Park in Melbourne, Australia.
Melbourne’s Swedish striker Ola Toivonen gave the lead to the hosts in the 29th, but Daegu earned their equalizer just two minutes later with Cesinha’s right-footed strike.
Daegu’s offense exploded in the second half. Hwang Soon-won put the visitors in the driver’s seat with his goal in the 51st, and Brazilian striker Edgar further punished Melbourne with his right-footed strike in the 61st.
Daegu, led by Brazilian head coach Andre, will host Guangzhou Evergrande next Tuesday for their second ACL match.
South Korea’s K League 1 is represented by four clubs in this year’s ACL. On Wednesday, defending K League 1 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will host Beijing Guoan for their Group C opener, while Ulsan Hyundai FC will play against Sydney FC in Australia. (Yonhap)